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The thousands of photographs in this series document the history of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance through images of its employees and their families, buildings and other places, and company events. They range from formal portraits and group shots to snapshots taken at banquets, conventions, meetings, on trips, and around the office.

There are many 19th century black-and-white photographs of NCM leaders and their families, staff, including women, the earliest home office buildings, office interiors, and community events. Many of these were reproduced by NCM staff for use in publicity and exhibits; these reproductions may be found in other series.

Individuals depicted in later images include NCM officers, employees, their families, and leaders such as Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Spiro Agnew, Jesse Jackson, ambassadors, and other politicians. Many significant original images were reproduced by NCM in various sizes and for various purposes; some of these reappear in the Exhibits Series material.

The bulk of the 20th century images was produced by the NC Mutual Public Relations Department for The Whetstone and The Pilot and are therefore often marked for cropping and resizing. Although some images are captioned with names, years, and locations, many are unmarked and many dates have been estimated. Some related paper material, such as clippings, biographical sketches, speeches, copies of publications, and memos transmitting the images, can also be found with the prints.

Comprising the bulk of the series, the Prints Subseries is arranged into Events, Historic Images, Other Public Relations, People, and Places Subseries. There is considerable overlap among subseries, for example, between Events and People. Many related items are also found in the Exhibit Material Series.

Large-format photographs and albums are located in the Oversize Prints section listed at the end of this series. These items include historic images of the company's early offices, portraits of senior administrators, group shots at banquets and other events, and images of the NCM home office buildings.

Materials are arranged into subseries by format. There are also slides, negatives, and negative reproductions found with corresponding photographs in the Prints Subseries. Print sizes range from 11x14 inches to roughly 32x40 inches; there is also a group of historic panoramic prints in the collection.


Mostly produced by the Public Relations department for publications such as The Whetstone and The Pilot, the prints are arranged into Events, Historic Images, Other Public Relations, People, and Places subseries, and within, chronologically.

Of note in this series are historic photographs of North Carolina Mutual offices, leaders, and staff; as well as early images of the families of its founders. These early images were arranged in various groupings by staff, and are found in other series in the collection, especially as reproductions in the Printed Materials Series.

Formats include 19th century and early 20th century prints such as cartes-de-visite, platinum, and gelatin silver prints, as well as modern black-and-white prints. One may also find negatives, slides and some related paper records in the series. Panoramic prints, largely associated with events, and other large format images are found in the Oversize Prints section listed at the end of the series.

Photographic materials, especially early and mounted prints, can be fragile and vulnerable to damage. Please handle carefully.


Includes photographic prints and photograph albums, arranged in original order as received, with mixed contents in boxes and folders. The great majority are black-and-white, with many featuring professional portraits of NC Mutual leaders and officers. The majority of the 20 panoramic photographs feature large group portraits taken at national and regional insurance association conventions and meetings, some as early as 1916 and 1917, and range in size from 18.75x8 inches to 44.5x8 inches. One panoramic photo at an unknown location features well-known educators including John Hope, Julius Rosenwald, Mary McLeod Bethune, and others.


Item is a digital-only version of a 27x75-inch photographic print mounted on a thick board. The photographer is unknown. The subject is the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company home office on the first block of Parrish Street in Durham, N.C., built in 1906 and demolished in 1921 in order to build a new six-story home office. A group of staff and affiliated people is grouped in front of the building, and appears to be facing another photographer.

The board mount is severely deteriorated and is stored in separate flat file housing; it is closed to general use. The digital access image was captured by Duke Libraries Digital Production staff in 2016 in several separate images, and stitched together with Photo Merge.

Although a negative or smaller print of this image appears not to exist in the collection, there are oversize photographs of Durham, N.C. home office and staff taken around or on the same date in the Photographic Materials, Historical Images subseries, or possibly in other locations in the Exhibit Materials series.

Please consult with Rubenstein Library staff for more assistance.


Arranged into the following subseries: NCM Publications, Non-NCM Publications, and Periodical Clippings. The first two subseries are further subdivided into two large format groupings: Pamphlets and Other Publications, and Serials. These files were assembled by NCM staff and offer a rich array of printed resources on African American history, culture, and businesses. Formats include essays; reports; pamphlets; brochures and fliers for products, initiatives, and events; newsletters; newspapers and clippings; journals; popular serials; internal publications, including a full set of NC Mutual's serial, The Whetstone, promotional literature for North Carolina Mutual as well as other organizations, and a set of obituaries (1944-2005) memorializing company staff, most of which contain full biographies.

The substantial clippings file was assembled by the Public Relations Department, and is arranged topically in its original sequence; there are significant amounts of materials on the civil rights movement and on Durham history.

There are also oversize sections at the end of each subseries chiefly housing newspapers and other serials; early whole issues as well as single pages of Durham newspapers can be found here, as well as newspapers from elsewhere, and issues of mainstream magazines such as Ebony. The Non-NCM subseries in addition contains a large sub-grouping of print items related to Durham's historically black North Carolina Central University (NCCU), including campus newspapers and events programs.

Series, subseries, and their files are further described in this collection guide.


Series comprises internal North Carolina Mutual serial publications, arranged alphabetically by title, then chronologically. Consists primarily of nearly complete runs of three company publications: The Mutual (1903, 1923-1929), The Whetstone (1924-1998), and The Weekly Review (1925-1998). Some large runs of issues are housed in original binders. One binder with mixed contents contains various samples of NCM publications, including an issue of The Whetstone (second quarter 1963); two issues of The Mutual; a pamphlet about the origins and history of the company, dated November 23, 1921; and the proceedings of the Annual Agents' Conference of 1920. A fourth publication is The Hotline (1988-1997). Listings in the collection guide include oversize material, found at the end of the series.

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was founded in Durham, N.C. in 1897, and was dissolved in 2022. Its archives document the company's founding and development, and contribute to the historic record on African American businesses and entrepreneurship in the South and in the United States. Dating from 1850 to 2008, the material covers nearly every aspect of N.C. Mutual's operations, management, and milestones. Includes corporate office files, including the records of five company presidents; annual statements; reports; surveys; memos; legal and financial papers; original life insurance policies; training material; programs; ephemera and artifacts; and a large number of historical photographs of male and female staff and their families, offices, buildings, and Durham scenes dating back to the late 1890s. Significant businessmen represented in the papers include founders John Merrick and Aaron Moore; and presidents Bert Collins, Joseph Goodloe, William Kennedy Jr., William Kennedy, III, Charles C. Spaulding, Asa T. Spaulding, and current president James H. Speed. Throughout there are numerous images and narratives about the many women workers and administrative staff who held positions at the company dating back to the turn of the 20th century. The collection is especially rich in print material, including many issues of three company publications: The Mutual (1903-1929), The Whetstone (1924-1998), and The Weekly Review (1925-1998). It is also notable for its assemblage of material on United States African American history, including much information on other companies, and public relations material dating from the earliest years to present times, including advertising ephemera, advertising campaigns, and other related items. Other materials document North Carolina Mutual's outreach to the African American community throughout its history to counter racism, unemployment, and diseases by means of public health programs, church affiliations, mentoring, and scholarship programs. Over one hundred selected digitized photographs and a few documents are also available online. Acquired and curated jointly by the North Carolina Central University's University Archives, Records and History Center and the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture at Duke University.

The records in the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Archives document the history of one of the largest African American insurance company in the United States. The materials date from 1850 to 2008, with the majority of the items dating from 1898 to 2008, and cover nearly all aspects concerning the operation, management, and milestones of NC Mutual (NCM). The archive comprises: corporate office files, including the offices of five company presidents; annual statements, reports, surveys, and memos; legal and financial files; original life insurance policies and other documents; advertising, internal and external publications, pamphlets, posters, and other print material; training material; thousands of historic photographs; public relations and outreach material; memorabilia; and audiovisual recordings as well as some films and videos.

The collection contributes significantly to documentation on the history of African American businesses in the United States, particularly in the South, and on the socioeconomic status of African Americans in the South in the 20th century. There is valuable information on public health issues affecting 20th-century African Americans, and information about public health programming created by NC Mutual as well as by other entities. In addition, through company records and many ephemeral publications such as obituaries, the collection offers detailed documentation of the work status and personal lives of the company's many employees and their life insurance customers, predominantly African American women and men.

Corporate office files form the bulk of the collection, covering nearly every aspect of the company's operations and activities from its founding in 1898. There are extensive correspondence files as well as meeting notes and minutes, many legal and financial reports, and surveys of the insurance industry. Materials relating to a published history of NCM written by one of its presidents, William Kennedy Jr., are located in the Office of the Presidents Series. Company presidents represented most substantially in the files include: William Kennedy Jr. (1952-1958), Asa T. Spaulding (1959-1967), Joseph Goodloe (1968-1972), William Kennedy III (1972-1990), and Bert Collins (1990-2003). Earlier and later presidents and leaders, including founders Merrick and Moore, and presidents C.C. Spaulding and James Speed are also represented in smaller amounts of material. Personnel records are also present and are closed to use until 2074, 75 years after the date of most recent record.

Most of the records relates to the history and operations of the home office in Durham, N.C. but there is a significant amount of material that relates to district offices located throughout the United States, particularly in the South but also in cities such as Philadelphia, as well as records that refer to other related organizations such as insurance companies and financial institutions.

The collection is rich in print materials, and includes nearly complete runs of three company publications: The Mutual (1903-1929), The Whetstone (1924-1998), and The Weekly Review (1925-1998). Extensive public relations materials date from the earliest years to the mid-2000s, and include advertising ephemera, materials related to advertising campaigns, and other items. Additionally, there are records of NCM's extensive community outreach such as public health, mentoring, and scholarship programs, and documents relating to the company's ties with Durham's churches such as White Rock Baptist, and with other organizations such as Mechanics and Farmers Bank.

Among the several thousand photographs in the collection, hundreds date from the first decades following the company's founding, and offer important and vivid historical evidence concerning NCM's history, its employees and their families, and the history of Durham, N.C. Many are oversize, and feature twenty panoramic photographs of conventions and other events from the early to mid-20th century. The collection also contains photographs of founders Merrick and Moore and their families, NC Mutual office buildings throughout its history, and many large photographic portraits of senior administration from the earliest years to the mid-2000s. Other photos capture employees at banquets and conventions throughout the company's history; some large sets of images from the early to mid-20th century document employee's homes as well. From the historic photographs and other images not represented in the collection, NCM created a permanent exhibit in its home office's "Heritage Hall" commemorating the company's history; these exhibit images, panels, and labels are also preserved in this collection.

Acquired and jointly curated by the North Carolina Central University's University Archives, Records, and History Center, and the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture at Duke University.